The Essence of War

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007 · 5 Comments »

I’ve written before about how the rape of women is an indissoluble part of war, but Professor Shortell makes the same point in about one-twentieth of the space. He quotes from this article in the New York Times about the war in Congo:

Every day, 10 new women and girls who have been raped show up at his hospital. Many have been so sadistically attacked from the inside out, butchered by bayonets and assaulted with chunks of wood, that their reproductive and digestive systems are beyond repair.

As Prof. Shortell says: “Rape and torture aren’t accidents that happen on the fringes of war; they are the essence of war.”

It is a conservative myth that men pay the price for war; that our brave boys are the ones who bear the burden of defending our whatever-the-fuck. I’m going to quote myself here, from a piece I wrote in February 2006 about Iraq:

Of course, the bigger point to be made here is that war exerts a profound and particular violence on women. Civilian females raped by maruading troops, female soldiers raped by their own comrades, military wives at home killed by their returning husbands — war and militarism hit women hard. This runs contrary to conventional wisdom, which holds that war is the special burden of men, the great sacrifice that males give for their country. Anti-feminists make a sort of fetish of this, claiming that war casualties are overwhelmingly male. That is, to put it politely, bullshit.

Despite the glorification of “our brave boys in uniform,” soldiers are not the main casualties of war. Civilian populations are. In the 20th century, 90 percent of all war deaths were unarmed women, children, and men.

I put that statement in bold because I think it needs to become a permanent fixture of everyone’s mental furniture. When we think about war, we need to think about its real effects. Forget John Wayne and Rambo; remember, instead, the citizens of Dresden, the women of Bosnia, the ash heaps/former humans of Hiroshima. Let’s say it one more time: soldiers are not the main casualties of war. Innocent civilians are.

Let us add now to that roster of raped and maimed civilians; let us add the Congo women lying in hospital beds with colostomy bags — colostomy bags, I tell you, because they have been so brutally raped their plumbing doesn’t work anymore.

That’s what war is.

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5 Responses to “The Essence of War”

  1. Kiuku says:

    When Condaleezza Rice was asked whether or not the thousands of dead Iraqi children was worth the war effort, and she said yes, I never want to be like that. I never want to be the person who says yes that is worth it, whatever that is. It bothers me when anti-feminists spout that crap that men “take all” the dangerous jobs and “risk their lives” -for women-. Meanwhile women are prostituted as comfort women…the “enemies” women are seen as things to maim, not much different than their own women. War is not a brutal reality, something to accept. Right now we want to build a democratic Iraq, and stop Iran from pursuing nuclear weaponry. We wanted to stop the holocaust and communism. We did, but the casualties were, the ones who bear the brunt of war, and will always be women, children, civilians.

  2. therealUK says:

    “Rape and torture aren’t accidents that happen on the fringes of war; they are the essence of war.”

    Alternatively: rape and torture are the essence of maleness. That’s what war is, because that’s what men are like. Scum.

  3. therealUK says:

    And just in case some bleater wants to start on about biological essentialism – I’m not saying men HAVE to be like this or that BIOLOGY MADE THEM DO IT AND THEY CAN’T HELP THEMSELVES.

    I’m simply describing how they are in practice, in reality in the culture we have in this world – and if there is any intrinsic failing in the male it is their readiness to choose scum filth behaviour instead of decent humanity.

  4. Mama Bear says:

    Thank you for writing this. Somebody has to say it.

  5. Timothy Shortell says:

    Thanks for the link.

    I worry a lot about the long-term consequences of the occupation of Iraq, and this is one likely outcome of forcing a society into a decade or more of perpetual war. By the time we hear news of the roving gangs of rapists (and the related ‘honor killings’) in Iraq, US forces will be long gone, and many (most?) Americans won’t feel any responsibility.

    That rape becomes policy or normative is the result of the ideology that makes women a form of property. Who can deny that those forces are now in control in Iraq?